I came out publicly a few months prior to my twenty-second birthday. I was sitting in the parking lot of a hospital with my partner at the time, coffee for her bedridden mother in the cup holder, and we were avidly discussing our new relationship.
“I don’t know, I like, I really want to make it Facebook official? I just don’t know what my dad’s gonna say,” I said. “But I already told my mum. And she was really cool with it.”
Which was true. I’d told my mother maybe a week before that I’d started seeing someone, and when she asked me for “his” name, I hesitated before saying “Vanessa*.” And she didn’t react. Instead, she asked me where we met. Like she always expected her daughter to be into girls someday.
My adoration, my young and shiny-brand-new love for Vanessa, was so big on that day that I wanted the world to know about my first girlfriend. And with her encouragement, I took my chances with the more conservative half of my family. With shaking, clumsy fingers, I used the crummy hospital Wi-Fi to set my Facebook relationship status to the obviously gay relationship I had. I kissed her in her car in the parking lot. My lipstick probably smudged all over her face. I wanted everyone to know that her red mouth was because of me.
So I wanted to die when she broke up with me a few months later. Because no matter how full I felt of feelings, no matter what kind of future I dreamed of when I held her in my bed at night, she didn’t want those things anymore. She didn’t want them from me. And I wanted to die.
When you spend so much time in the closet, I think your first relationship that you actually want is the hardest to leave behind. When you spend years dating boys, kissing boys, bringing boys home to meet your family over the holidays, I think maybe you want to love that first different person more than the rest, you want to love them loud and hard. I couldn’t help but go into a million romantic clichés for Vanessa. When you spend twenty-two years being someone else, showing everyone who you really are eases a heavy, drowning weight in your lungs. When I brought my first girlfriend home to my father, I felt at home in his presence for the first time since I knew I wasn’t straight. Finally being yourself is the coldest, cleanest air you’ve ever breathed.
I think my attachment to my first gay relationship was inevitable.
With that in mind, for once, the hardest part isn’t being alone. I didn’t crumble after losing a best friend. What has made being single so stressful is how open and honest I have become—with Vanessa, with my family, and with myself. Changing my relationship status for all my peers to see felt like magic when I first made the switch, but the afterglow faded with our romance. For a while, coming out seemed like such a waste. The gesture wasn’t nearly as symbolic as I’d initially thought.
In my post-breakup state, in my post-Vanessa world, I am constantly reminding myself that my feelings were okay. That they are okay. The ending wasn’t what I wanted. We didn’t go to grad school together or fill a shared apartment with plants. We didn’t even make it to a spring break road trip. We never shared a Christmas together. But dating Vanessa changed my life for the better. I used to long to make the same jokes about my sexuality in front of my parents as I did my friends. When I visited my mother a few weeks ago, she was cooking breakfast, and I mentioned preferring sausage to bacon. Then I said, “Well, actually, I don’t prefer a good sausage at all. I hate men.” I tipped my head back and laughed and was comfortable with being a lesbian. I was comfortable with my parents knowing that I’m a lesbian.
I loved Vanessa. I was in love, and now I am not, and I will live through this. I will keep going even on the worst days, even on the days when I need to journal for an hour before I make it out of my bedroom and into the sunlight. I will be sad for my first gay breakup and for the end of my beginning as an out-of-the-closet lesbian. But this relationship was just that—my beginning.
I am surviving my first gay breakup. My new life is just starting.
*Name has been changed.
cover art by Mike Shaw
Mira likes cats, pop music, and internet memes. You can find her on Twitter making snarky commentary and having meltdowns over Weezer songs at @coffee_lesbian.